The MAXI TRIAL (Italian: MAXIPROCESSO) was a criminal trial against
Sicilian Mafia that took place in
Sicilian prosecutors indicted 475 mafiosi for a multitude of crimes relating to Mafia activities, based primarily on testimonies given as evidence from former Mafia bosses turned informants, known as pentiti , in particular Tommaso Buscetta and Salvatore Contorno . Most were convicted to life imprisonment and, to the surprise of many, the convictions were upheld in January 1992, after the final stage of appeal. The importance of the trial was that the existence of Cosa Nostra was finally judicially confirmed.
It's considered to be the most important trial against Sicilian Mafia and the biggest trial ever held in the world.
* 1 Preceding events * 2 Location and defendants * 3 Trial * 4 Verdicts * 5 Appeals * 6 Aftermath * 7 References * 8 Bibliography * 9 Further reading * 10 External links
The existence and crimes of the Mafia had been denied or merely
downplayed by many people in authority for decades, despite proof of
its criminal activities dating back to the 19th century. This can be
attributed in part to three particular methods used by the Mafia to
provide an environment akin to near immunity—paying off key people,
killing real or perceived leaks in their own organization, and
threatening or even killing key people (judges, lawyers, witnesses,
politicians) were used successfully to keep many prosecution efforts
at bay. In fact it was only in 1980 that it was first seriously
suggested that being a member of the Mafia should be a specific
criminal offence by Communist politician
Pio La Torre
During the early 1980s, the
Second Mafia War had raged as Corleonesi
Salvatore Riina devastated other Mafia Families, resulting in
hundreds of murders, including several high-profile authority figures
Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa
The groundwork for the
LOCATION AND DEFENDANTS
The Maxi trial took place next to the Ucciardone, Palermo's massive nineteenth-century Bourbon prison, in a bunker specially designed and built to try the defendants. It was a large octagonal building made from reinforced concrete that was able to withstand rocket attacks; inside there were cages built into the green walls holding the many defendants in large groups. There were over six hundred members of the press as well as many carabinieri wielding machine guns and a 24-hour air defense system keeping an eye on the defendants and would-be attackers attempting to thwart the efforts.
Never before in the history of the Mafia had so many Mafiosi been on trial at the same time. A total of 475 defendants were facing charges, although 119 of them were to be tried in absentia as they were fugitives and still on the run ( Salvatore Riina was one of these absent defendants.) Among the defendants were all major Mafia bosses, including Luciano Leggio , the head of the Corleonesi , who acted as his own lawyer; Michele Greco , the head of the Mafia Commission , who was arrested while the trial had already started; Giuseppe "Pippo" Calò and others.
After several years of investigating by the Antimafia pool, the trial began on 10 February 1986. The presiding judge was Alfonso Giordano, flanked by two other judges who were 'alternates', should anything fatal happen to Giordano before the end of what was to be a lengthy trial. The charges faced by the defendants included 120 murders , drug trafficking, extortion and, of course, the new law that made it an offence to be a member of the Mafia, the first time that law would be put to the test.
Judge Giordano won a lot of praise for remaining patient and fair during such a mammoth case with so many defendants. Some of the defendants indulged in disruptive and rather alarming behaviour, such as one who literally stapled his mouth shut to signify his refusal to talk, another who feigned madness by frequently screaming and fighting with guards even when he was in a straitjacket and one who threatened to cut his own throat if a statement of his was not read out to the court.
Most of the crucial evidence came from
Tommaso Buscetta , a Mafioso
captured in 1982 in
Some evidence was also presented posthumously from
Leonardo Vitale .
Although Buscetta is widely regarded as the first of the pentiti (and
was certainly the first to be taken seriously), back in 1973,
Leonardo Vitale had turned himself in at a
There were many critics of the Maxi Trial. Some implied that the
defendants were being victimized as part of some sort of vendetta of
the magistrates. The Sicilian writer
Other critics suggested that the word of informants—primarily Buscetta—was not the ideal way to judge other people, as even an informant who has truly repented is still a former criminal, liar and murderer and may still have a vested interest in modifying their testimony to suit their needs or even settle vendettas. It was also said that such a huge trial with so many defendants was not making allowances for the individuals, an attempt to "deliver justice in bulk" as one journalist put it.
The information that Buscetta gave judges Falcone and Borsellino was highly important, and was termed 'The Buscetta Theorem', in that the believability of his claims of the existence of the Mafia was central to the case. Buscetta gave a new understanding to how the Mafia functioned and how the clandestine groups of hierarchy in the Sicilian Cupola (the Sicilian Mafia Commission ) actually agreed on policy and business. For the first time the Mafia had been prosecuted as an entity rather than a collection of individual crimes.
The trial ended on 16 December 1987, almost two years after it commenced. The verdicts were announced at 7:30 pm and took an hour to read through.
Of the 474 defendants—both those present and those tried in absentia—360 were convicted. 2,665 years of prison sentences were shared out between the guilty, not including the life sentences handed to the nineteen leading Mafia bosses and killers, including Michele Greco , Giuseppe Marchese and—in absentia— Salvatore Riina , Giuseppe Lucchese and Bernardo Provenzano .
A number of those convicted in absentia were, unknown to the judiciary, deceased by the time of the verdicts. They included Filippo Marchese , Rosario Riccobono and Giuseppe Greco . Additionally Mario Prestifilippo was also on trial in absentia, but he was found shot dead in the streets while proceedings were still taking place.
A total of 114 defendants were acquitted, including Luciano Leggio , who had been charged with helping to run the Corleonesi Mafia Family from behind bars and for ordering the murder of Cesare Terranova , who had prosecuted him back in 1970. The jury decided there was not enough evidence. It made little difference to Leggio's position though; he was already serving a sentence of life imprisonment for a prior conviction for murder and remained behind bars until his death six years later.
The significant number of acquittals did manage to silence some of the critics who had believed that it was a show trial whereby nearly everyone would be convicted.
Of those who were acquitted, eighteen were later murdered by the Mafia, including one, Antoninio Ciulla , who was shot dead within an hour of being released as he drove home for a celebratory party.
By 1990, only 60 defendants remained behind bars, and many were not exactly doing hard-time, with several residing in prison hospitals and taking it easy while malingering with phantom illnesses. One convicted Mafioso had a private hospital ward to himself and had several common (non-Mafiosi) criminals as his servants, supposedly while suffering from a brain tumor that, suspiciously, did not show any symptoms whatsoever.
Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino complained about these events but found it hard to be taken seriously as, so it seemed, the state's anti-Mafia crusade lost momentum and their opinions went largely unheard. One informer later said that the Mafia tolerated the Maxi Trials because they assumed those convicted would soon be quietly released once the public had lost interest, and the Mafia could continue with business as usual. It seemed, for a while, that they were correct in this assumption.
The final passage was the pronouncement of the Supreme Court of Cassation .
Corrado Carnevale , a judge suspected of being in the pay of the
Mafia, who was handed control over most of the appeals by the corrupt
Salvatore Lima , could be appointed to carry out the trial.
Carnevale was eventually nicknamed l'ammazza-sentenze—"The Sentence
Killer"—because of his tendency to overturn Mafia convictions for
technicalities. He threw out some drug-trafficking convictions, for
example, because wiretapped conversations presented as evidence
referred to the moving of "shirts" and "suits" instead of narcotics ,
even though it was well known that these were the codenames the
members of that particular drug-ring employed for narcotics. He also
released one Mafioso, who had been convicted of murder, on the grounds
of ill health. Despite being supposedly at death's door, the mobster
immediately fled to
However, Carnevale was not appointed as prosecutor and the final
decision on the
In January 1992, Falcone and Borsellino managed to take charge of
That summer, Falcone and Borsellino were murdered in audacious bomb attacks. This resulted in public revulsion and a major crackdown against the Mafia that seriously weakened the organization.
Salvatore Riina was eventually captured, as were other Mafiosi like Giovanni Brusca . Corrado Carnevale, the "Sentence Killer", was sacked and imprisoned for being in league with the Mafia. However he was acquitted by the Corte di cassazione on 30 October 2002 and admitted in 2007 to work again as judge. Salvatore Lima would have probably faced a similar fate but he was murdered in 1992 for not preventing the reversal of the appeals at the start of that year.
* ^ A B C Giovanni Falcone,
Paolo Borsellino and the Procura of
* Schneider, Jane T. ;background:none transparent;border:none;-moz-box-shadow:none;-webkit-box-shadow:none;box-shadow:none;">v
* t * e
CHAIN OF COMMAND
CODES AND TERMS
* Corleonesi * Greco * Motisi * Inzerillo * Cuntrera-Caruana
* First Mafia War (1961–1963) * Second Mafia War (1981–1983)
MASSACRES AND BOMBINGS
Portella della Ginestra massacre (1947)
Ciaculli bombing (1963)
Viale Lazio massacre (1969)
* Via Federico Pipitone massacre (1983)
Train 904 bombing (1984)
Pizzolungo bombing (1985)
* Italian brigandage (19th century)
* Sicilian brigandage and rebels (20th century)
Mala del Brenta